Research Interests

Current Research:

Evolutionary ecology of Plethodontid salamanders

My dissertation work is generally focused around the evolutionary ecology of Plethodontid salamanders. Specifically, I will be investigating this topic from the perspective of microhabitat. I want to find out how microhabitat variables are affected by macrohabitat variables over a large range of Plethodontid salamander habitat. I also want to determine if variation in microhabitat is a factor that promotes the high species richness found within the Appalachian Mountain region. These data will also allow me to address other questions including if species are behaviorally choosing specific microhabitat types even when a variety of different microhabitat types are present also known as the Bogert effect. Finally, I will also study niche conservatism of microhabitat variables among various Plethondid species caldes.

I also hope to continue my research on color polymorphism by addressing additional microhabitat based questions using the many species of Plethodon salamanders which have a polymorphism for dorsal color stripes. My work started in 2012 and will continue through fall of 2015. Most of the field work will be conducted from April to August of each year. Some sampling will be done in early spring and fall as time permits. If you are an undergraduate student or recent graduate looking for experience I may have volunteer positions available. If you are interested please send me an e-mail.

Field Assistants for this Project


Previous Research:

Color polymorphism of mottled rock rattlesnakes (Crotalus l. lepidus)

My interests are varied, but a common theme is herpetology. My master's work focused on the maintenance of color polymorphism in mottled rock rattlesnakes (Crotalus l. lepidus). This species exhibits strong levels of color and pattern polymorphism throughout its range primarily separated into a western race composed of dark colored individuals and a eastern race composed of light colored individuals. The eastern race commonly has anterior fading of blotching. The western race coincides with dark volcanic rock and soils while the eastern race coincides with limestone and light colored substrate. I performed a predation experiment to determine the role of predation on the evolution of these dramaticly variable color morphs.



Foraging behavior of black spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura similis) in the presence of predator cues

I examined the foraging behavior of black spiny-tailed iguanas at the Palo Verde Research Station located in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica. Iguanas at this station are relatively habituated to humans which allowed me to observe individuals without altering their behavior. Feeding stations were set up in known foraging locations. Each feeding station was adjacent to container holding either a Boa constrictor, Boa feces, or no stimulus. Iguana foraging activity was noted and analyzed to determine their response to each stimulus.